Washington, D.C.—The following is a statement from Verda J. Hicks, MD, FACOG, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and Christopher M. Zahn, MD, FACOG, interim CEO of ACOG:
“ACOG strongly condemns sexual assault, sexual harassment, and sexual misconduct; this is a long-standing policy of our organization.
“In recent weeks, ACOG has undertaken a review of our clinical guidance and policies related to sexual misconduct, including sexual assault. In so doing, we have come to realize that our extensive work on this topic has been focused on patient care: for example, in the form of efforts to clarify the role of the obstetrician–gynecologist in screening patients for sexual assault; to detail how obstetrician–gynecologists can and should provide trauma-informed care; and to condemn all types of sexual misconduct, including sexual assault, in the patient–physician relationship. As a medical organization that creates evidence-based guidance to improve patient care, our work—and the advocacy that it informs—is critically important to improving patient lives.
“As a membership organization with more than 62,000 members, we have also come to realize that our prior patient-focused approach to sexual misconduct failed to address the needs of members who have experienced sexual harassment, sexual assault, or other sexual misconduct in the professional setting. This has been made evident by the stories of sexual misconduct that our members have been sharing and that we have been hearing. Moving forward, we are taking steps to correct that.
“The ACOG Board of Directors has approved an updated Statement of Policy that condemns the sexual assault and misconduct experienced by medical professionals in the professional setting. This updated Statement of Policy will help guide all ACOG educational, advocacy, and membership activities going forward.
“In addition, we have identified ways in which ACOG can use our voice and influence to better support our members and the public. As a membership organization, ACOG is not an investigative or regulatory body. But we are committing to taking the following actions to prevent sexual misconduct, including sexual assault, and promote mechanisms by which abusers can be held accountable.
- ACOG President Verda J. Hicks, MD, FACOG, will lead the creation of educational programming on sexual misconduct in the medical professional setting, which will be provided to all ACOG members and their institutions. This resource will be developed with the support of experts in the field to ensure that it is meaningful and impactful.
- ACOG will advance access to training aimed at preventing and addressing sexual assault and other types of sexual misconduct across the obstetrician–gynecologist career span, from training to senior years in practice. It is critical that all obstetrician–gynecologists, whether they are trainees or more senior in their careers, have a clear understanding of the harms of sexual misconduct and sexual assault, both in professional settings and in the context of patient care. ACOG understands that uneven power dynamics can occur across a career, including during medical training and residency programs. For our members to practice to the best of their ability, working environments must be free from any type of sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment and sexual assault.
- ACOG will expand awareness of the avenues available to those who have experienced sexual assault or misconduct to pursue accountability for their abusers. Medical professionals, patients, and members of the public who have experienced sexual misconduct at the hands of physicians can report the abuse to their respective state medical boards, which oversee the licensing, regulation, and discipline of physicians in their states and are able to conduct thorough investigations into any reports they receive and take appropriate action. For obstetrician–gynecologists, ACOG’s confidential grievance process allows members to report a fellow member for behavior that contradicts our Code of Professional Ethics, including sexual assault or misconduct.
“ACOG’s work to address and prevent sexual misconduct, including sexual assault, in the medical community is a long-term commitment. As the largest medical organization of obstetrician–gynecologists, we have a responsibility to demand and foster environments for our colleagues and future colleagues that are free from sexual harassment and sexual assault. We ask our counterparts throughout the medical community to join us in this mission.”